John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
|Focus||Public policy, media, the arts|
|John D. MacArthur (co-founder)
Catherine T. MacArthur (co-founder)
|Endowment||$6.32 billion (2013)|
|Slogan||"Committed to building a more just, verdant & peaceful world."|
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is the 10th largest private foundation in the United States. Its grant-making primarily supports liberal causes. Based in Chicago, the Foundation supports non-profit organizations in approximately 50 countries. MacArthur has awarded more than US$5.5 billion since its inception in 1978. With an endowment of $6.32 billion, the foundation provides approximately $225 million annually in grants.
In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, also known as "genius grants," the foundation awards grants in funding areas including arts and culture, community and economic development, digital media and learning, housing, and juvenile justice. The Foundation's stated aim is to "support creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world."
John D. MacArthur owned Bankers Life and Casualty and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife, Catherine T. MacArthur, held positions in many of these companies. The MacArthurs' attorney, William T. Kirby, along with Paul Doolen, the MacArthurs' CFO, suggested that the family create a foundation to be endowed by their vast fortune.
When John died on January 6, 1978, he was worth in excess of $1 billion and was reportedly one of the three richest men in the United States. MacArthur left 92 percent of his estate to begin the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The composition of the Foundation’s first Board of Directors, per MacArthur’s will, also included Catherine, J. Roderick MacArthur (a son from John's first marriage), two other officers of Bankers Life and Casualty, and radio commentator Paul Harvey.
John MacArthur was a conservative and capitalist. The Foundation’s original 1970 deed said that one purpose of the foundation was to support “ways to discover and promulgate avoidance of waste in government expenditures.” However, MacArthur did not spell out specific parameters for how his money was to be spent after he died. MacArthur told the Foundation's board of directors "I figured out how to make the money. You fellows will have to figure out how to spend it.” Between 1979 and 1981, John's son J. Roderick MacArthur, a political liberal, waged a legal battle against the Foundation, wresting control of the board of directors away from conservative members. The Foundation became and remains one of the pillars of the liberal philanthropic establishment.
Robert Gallucci, formerly dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, served as the Foundation's fourth president from 2009 to 2014. Gallucci was fired in 2014, with the Foundation's board announcing it was "looking for a new kind of leadership." Julia Stasch, who formerly served as MacArthur's Vice President for U.S. Programs, was named the Foundation's new president in 2015. Stasch had formerly served as chief of staff to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The MacArthur Fellowship is an award issued by the MacArthur Foundation each year, to typically 20 to 25 citizens or residents of the United States, of any age and working in any field, who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work." According to the Foundation, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but an investment in a person's originality and potential. Dr. George Burch of Tulane University is credited with conceiving of the idea for the MacArthur Fellow program.
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